Huai Xin Li
I started my graduate project with a passion for mental health awareness. I wondered how design can help people understand the challenges of living with a mental health condition. Swing is created with the idea that people with bipolar disorder can share their experiences anonymously and comfortably to the public through engaging interactive stories. Swing is an online platform that designs and shares interactive stories about bipolar disorder.
How can we better understand people living with bipolar disorder?
Swing is an online platform that designs interactive stories based on the experiences shared by people with bipolar disorder. The target users of the interactive stories are young people who have interests learning about mental health.
People can easily share their story online or submit a file of their story. All information will remain anonymous.
Users can download Swing to their mobile phones and get access to the latest interactive stories.
Interact with objects and complete small tasks within the story.
Role-play the characters and engage in meaningful dialogues.
Comic style micro-animations in the story can provide users with an immersive experience.
Users sometimes need to choose an option to continue the story. Different decisions can lead to different endings, so users can understand the story from various perspectives.
“What makes it difficult for people to understand the mental health challenges that others face?”
“ Do people feel comfortable sharing their mental health experiences?”
It’s difficult for people to understand others with a mental illness when they don’t know what it is. The research indicates that stigma usually is the cause that makes it difficult for people to understand others with mental health issues.
Stigma can come from prejudices on social media, in society, fear and misunderstanding beliefs of mental illness and more. However, there are strategies to challenge stigma in mental health. One of the most effective solutions is to speak up for yourself and make people hear your inner voice.
In my primary research, I decided to focus on one mental illness: “bipolar disorder.” It’s a type of mood disorder. People with bipolar disorder will go through periods of extreme depression or extreme high mood, called mania. It was important to learn about bipolar disorder before designing.
During my discovery, I assumed that people would like to share their experiences publicly to a community and get support from others, but that doesn’t mean everyone is positive and supportive on social media.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada, 70 percent of patients have their onset of mental illness during childhood or adolescence. Young people with the age 15 to 24 are at risk to experience mental illness more than any other age group. Numerous mental health websites advocate sharing of personal stories, so people can easily relate mental health stories to their real life.
At this stage, I planned to design for adolescents and young adults. They are more likely to have mental illness at their age. If we can help young people learn about mental health early, they will be less likely affected by stigma.
“What we need to do is help youngsters to break the stigma before they even know that there is a stigma surrounding poor mental health.”
Campbell Hamilton, who ran the workshop of Uberheroes Comics.
Uberheroes is a web platform that makes comics for children to raise awareness of mental health issues from an early age. The competitor analysis and major findings express that comics can build a connection with young people. Comic is a powerful way of storytelling and comics are extremely popular in younger populations. Uberheroes got me inspired with the idea that I could design an interactive comic story for the users.
I had a clear idea of how ‘Swing’ would function. The goal was to design an interactive comic story. The story itself is based on someone’s real-life experience with bipolar disorder. I know the person personally, and I was permitted to use the story for creating my project.
Interactive comic story can:
- Gain a better understanding of bipolar disorder
- Graphics and concise texts make stories interesting and easy to understand
- Images, motions and sounds convey emotion. Users are more likely to empathize with the experiences in an interactive story
- Easily accessible online
An interactive comic story will definitely have a story script. I rewrote the story to ensure that the all identifiable information in the story are kept anonymous. I selected some parts of the story to create the interactive story. With design ideas in mind, I created user flows to determine the kind of interactions within the story and designed prototypes in Figma for user testing.
My final design deliverable of ‘Swing’ is a video prototype! The video demonstrates how users may experience an interactive comic story. By designing meaningful experiences, I hope to connect the people around us. We can share more kindness with each other. I believe this project can inspire you to care more about mental health issues.
SWING has provided me with a great learning experience in mental health design. Having experienced mental health issues myself, I thought my graduation project could be an opportunity to help more people understand mental health issues.
Design is never a linear process. I really enjoyed the entire design process: researching, empathizing, designing, prototyping, testing and iterating. In my project, the initial problem space was broad, but after conducting interviews with the users, I realized that they all have stories. And then, I tried to connect the problem to my surrounding.
Designing for mental health was a challenging process, I sometimes felt stuck on directions. I am grateful to have my instructors to support me throughout the project. Design is always a teamwork. I will continue to practice design and hope to bring more positive impacts to society.
Thank you and I hope you enjoyed my project